Analysis / Steven Universe
So you want to watch Steven Universe...
is a great series, but it's prone to Continuity Lockout
for the newcomers, and frankly, some episodes are weaker than others. With that in mind, I'm rating each episode on a 1-4 scale, as follows:
4: Essential. This episode is plot-critical and cannot be skipped to keep up with the series.
3: Recommended. While not essential to follow the main storyline, it is still a good episode in its own right and should be watched.
2: Optional. These episodes may be enjoyable to some, but can be skipped if need be.
1: Not recommended. This is an episode I feel can be freely skipped without missing anything.
So, without spoiling anything, here's my ratings!
- Steven Universe S1-E1 "Gem Glow" (4): Introduces the characters and the setting. While not the best episode, it still can't be skipped.
- Steven Universe S1E2 "Laser Light Cannon" (4): Again, provides important details on the setting and introduces major characters.
- Steven Universe S1E3 "Cheeseburger Backpack" (3): Provides some more background on Gems and some character development.
- Steven Universe S1E4 "Together Breakfast" (2): Can be fun, but does not really add anything important.
- Steven Universe S1E5 "Frybo" (1): Introduces a minor character, but is otherwise not a particularly good episode.
- Steven Universe S1E6 "Cat Fingers" (2): Introduces some minor plot elements, and is probably the episode where a darker tone starts to be established. Nevertheless, not a particularly great episode, and can be skipped.
- Steven Universe S1E7 "Bubble Buddies" (4): Introduces a very important character.
- Steven Universe S1E8 "Serious Steven" (3): Some nice character building for Steven, and provides some background details.
- Steven Universe S1E9 "Tiger Millionaire" (3): Some important character development for Amethyst.
- Steven Universe S1E10 "Steven's Lion" (4): Introduces another important character.
- Steven Universe S1E11 "Arcade Mania" (2): Has its moments, but not an important episode.
- Steven Universe S1E12 "Giant Woman" (4): Introduces an important concept about Gems.
- Steven Universe S1E13 "So Many Birthdays" (3): One of the darker episodes in the series, and worth watching for the feels.
- Steven Universe S1E14 "Lars and the Cool Kids" (2): I will admit to not liking Lars, but some may enjoy this episode.
- Steven Universe S1E15 "Onion Trade" (1): Honestly, this episode creeped me out. Skip.
- Steven Universe S1E16 "Steven the Sword Fighter" (4): A very intense episode. Must watch.
- Steven Universe S1E17 "Lion 2: The Movie" (4): More important backstory.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 18 Beach Party (2): Fun filler episode.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 19 Roses Room (4): Major character development for Steven and some backstory.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 20 Coach Steven (4): Character development for all!
- Steven Universe S 1 E 21 Joking Victim (2): Another Lars/Sadie episode. Entirely skippable.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 22 Steven And The Stevens (3): Essentially a remake of the pilot.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 23 Monster Buddies (3): An interesting episode, skip only if you must.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 24 An Indirect Kiss (4): Extremely important plot-critical episode that sets up several more.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 25 Mirror Gem (4): Marks a major turning point in the series, this episode absolutely cannot be skipped.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 26 Ocean Gem (4): Second part of the two parter, and is equally important.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 27 House Guest (4): While mostly a breather after the intense two parter, this episode nevertheless has some important elements to it.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 28 Space Race (3): Character development and some more background.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 29 Secret Team (2): Mostly filler.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 30 Island Adventure (2): More Lars/Sadie. If you like the characters, watch it, if not, skip it.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 31 Keep Beach City Weird (2): I only give this episode a 2 because of some possible foreshadowing that occurs. Otherwise not too interesting.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 32 Fusion Cuisine (3): Some neat character interactions and story.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 33 Garnets Universe (2): Complete filler, but fun in its own right.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 34 Watermelon Steven (2): This episode is just weird, and that's all I'm saying about that.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 35 Lion 3 Straight To Video (4): Some major feels are felt in this one. Must watch.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 36 Warp Tour (4): An extremely important episode that sets up the primary plot line for the series.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 37 Alone Together (3): I almost gave this one a 4, but you can skip it and not be lost. Still, an extremely good episode that you should watch anyways.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 38 The Test (3): Only character development, but still important.
- Steven Universe S1E39 "Future Vision" (4): Establishes an important fact regarding Garnet.
- Steven Universe S1E40 "On the Run" (4): Some serious background information as well as very important character development.
- Steven Universe S1E41 "Horror Club" (2): More Lars/Sadie/Renaldo filler. Skippable.
- Steven Universe S1E42 "Winter Forecast" (3): An interesting episode, and cute to watch.
- Steven Universe S1E43 "Maximum Capacity" (3): Quickly takes a turn for the darker, in a surprising way.
- Steven Universe S1E44 "Marble Madness" (4): The next episode that directly advances the main plotline. Essential.
- Steven Universe S1E45 "Rose's Scabbard" (3): Goes in depth into one character's psyche and the issues it creates.
- Steven Universe S1E46 "The Message" (4): Another major story episode.
- Steven Universe S1E47 "Political Power" (2): Mostly a breather episode before the two part finale.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 48 The Return (4): Part one of the season finale, and one of the most eventful episodes of the show.
- Steven Universe S 1 E 49 Jail Break (4): Part two of the season finale, likewise eventful.
- Steven Universe S2E1 "Full Disclosure" (3): Deals with the aftermath of the finale. Not critical, but still important.
- Steven Universe S2E2 "Open Book" (3): Total filler, but still a good episode.
- Steven Universe S2E3 "Joy Ride" (3): Another breather episode following the intense finale.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 4 Say Uncle (1): Non-canon crossover that can be totally skipped.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 5 Story For Steven (4): Very good episode that delves into the Gems' past.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 6 Shirt Club (1): Somewhat mean-spirited episode that I did not enjoy. Skip.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 7 Love Letters (2): Some find it amusing, some find it cringe. Up to you.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 8 Reformed (3): More character building, but not plot-critical.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 9 Sworn To The Sword (4): Sets up some important character development that has future ramifications.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 10 Rising Tides Crashing Skies (2): Ronaldo filler. Watch at own discretion.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 11 Keeping It Together (4): The next plot-critical episode, and probably the darkest one yet.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 12 We Need To Talk (4): More backstory about the Gems.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 13 Chille Tid (4): Details what's happened to a certain character after the last season finale.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 14 Cry For Help (4): Sets up an important plot arc with repercussions felt through future episodes.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 15 Keystone Motel (4): Deals with the fallout from the previous episode.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 16 Onion Friend (2): Some character development, but not important enough that you can't skip it.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 17 Historical Friction (2): Mildly amusing filler.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 18 Friend Ship (4): The resolution to the events started in "Cry for Help".
- Steven Universe S 2 E 19 Nightmare Hospital (3): Some important character growth, but does not advance the plot.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 20 Sadies Song (2): Sadie centered filler.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 21 Catch And Release (4): Another plot-critical episode.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 22 When It Rains (4): Sets up the major threat of the season, unskippable.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 23 Back To The Barn (3): Strictly speaking, not essential, but I highly recommend seeing it anyways.
- Steven Universe S 2 E 24 Too Far (3): Like the previous, it's mainly character interaction, but still important to set up later events.
- StevenUniverse S2-E25 "The Answer" (3): More character backstory, not critical, but interesting nonetheless.
- Steven Universe S2-E26 "Steven's Birthday" (2): Filler, but decent filler.
- Steven Universe S2-E27 "It Could've Been Great" (4): Essential to both the overall story and the current arc.
- Steven Universe S2-E28 "Message Received" (4): A major event happens in this episode that makes it essential viewing.
- Steven Universe S2-E29 "Log Date 7 15 2" (3): Mainly a breather episode after the intense previous one. Still worth watching for the character interaction.
I recently binge-watched every Steven Universe
episode in a week (as of this writing, until “Friend Ship”), and I must say that I loved the series. And I'm writing this piece of text to analyze one of the aspects that I liked the most: Pearl's character arc.
If I mention “Friend Ship”, a lot of people will summarize it as “the episode in which Pearl and Garnet finally make up”. But it's much more than that. It's actually “The culmination of Pearl's Character Arc
, as well as the beginning of her Character Development
So, during the powerful and heart-wrenching scene Pearl tells Garnet how she truly feels: she always though of herself as weak and full of insecurities, always needing of somebody to tell her what to do. Now, in order to get a better inisght of this emotional confession, we have to go back in time.
First, taking this into account, let's talk about her relationship with Rose, and Rose herself. Rose was the leader of the Rebellion, a powerful, beautiful and charismatic gem, and a tactical genius to boost. So we have one gem who thinks of herself as worthless, in a (sort of) relationship with another gem that everybody, including her enemies, admires, respects and looks up to. So is no surprise here that Pearl pretty much defines herself almost exclusively through her relationship with Rose. It appears that she takes more pride in being Rose's lover (not exactly clear if Rose loved her back that way, or if she was even aware of it) and confidant rather than anything she herself did on her own. She thinks she has nothing to offer and is amazed that somebody as great as Rose would choose to be with her.
Another thing that I found interesting is that of all the gems, Pearl seems to be the one who shows the least respects for humanity and Earth, the same species and planet Rose fought for at the expense of her being labeled a traitor and being banned from her world forever. You can't help but wonder that if Pearl had such low opinion on humans, why did she follow Rose. And the answer would be that she didn't care much about what they were fighting for as long as she got to be with Rose
(Rose's Scabbard supports this idea). Which is kind of scary if you think about it.
The episode “Sworn to the Sword” brings more light into this, and shows a very interesting parallel between Pearl/Rose and Steven/Connie. The episode shows how Pearl not only trains Connie just to fight, but to pretty much toss her life away for Steven's sake. Pearl made Connie think how her life was less worthy than Steven's, just like how Pearl's own life was less worthy than Rose's. It was something easy because Connie also had something of an inferiority complex (with some shades of I Just Want to Be Special
) regarding Steven.
However, this is when the differences come to play: Steven is utterly apalled of the idea of Connie dying for him. He clearly sees Connie as his equal, and wants Connie to see him in the same way, hence that's why he wants Connie to fight with
him, not for
him. Steven convinces Connie of this, and together they confront Pearl. Pearl wins the fight nevertheless, but the argument that follows is something she's not prepared for. Upon realizing how toxic Pearl's ideas of dying for others are, and upon hearing Pearl's Freudian Slip
, Connie probably asks a question that definitely takes Pearl aback:
Connie: Did Rose make you feel like you were nothing?
Because that's pretty much how Pearl made Connie think of herself regarding Steven. Pearl replies that it was the opposite, but this is obviously not true. Unlike Steven and Connie, Pearl clearly did not see Rose as an equal, but somebody greater than her. A relationship can't be healthy if one part is “better” than the other. Steven knew this, and made Connie realize of this truth. In the end, Pearl agrees to train both Steven and Connie to fight together, maybe realizing of the flaws of her relationship with Rose, as well as her own character.
Now, we go back again to “Friend Ship”. After Pearl's confession, this is Garnet's reply:
Garnet: It's not easy being in control. I have weaknesses too. But I choose not to let them consume me. I struggle to stay strong because I know the impact I have on everyone. Please understand, Pearl. You have an impact too. There are times when I look up to you for strength. You are your own gem. You control your destiny. Not me, not Rose, not Steven. But you must choose to be strong, so we can move forward. So I can trust you again.
So Pearl though most of her life “I'm worthless”. And, upon hearing this, Garnet told her “No, you're NOT”.
Now we get a better insight of Pearl's relationship with Rose as a way for her self-realization, and how once Rose wasn't there anymore she felt completely lost. But now, finally somebody told her something she desperately needed to hear, that she doesn't need to depend on other people to be strong, that she can be, and is, strong on her own. This is the culmination of her Character Arc
Now that that's out of the way, she can finally move on from her crush on Rose as well as her loss, and realize that she doesn't need others to feel strong or validated. Evidenced in Back to the Barn, when Pearl stands up to Peridot's flagrantly prejudiced Homeworld views, challenging them directly (even saying she belonged to no one... not even to Rose or Steven). Even with her narrow loss in an out-and-out fist fight, the words of encouragement from Steven and the other Gems only solidifies her personal growth as an individual.